Although I was not enthusiastic about the prospect, I recently had a chance to read Going Rogue: An American Life by Sarah Palin. It’s really not bad and I think it conveys a substantial amount of what her former running mate might call the "straight talk” about who Sarah Palin is and what she really stands for.
Which is what exactly? some of you might be asking. The great irony of Going Rogue is that it delivers very little new information. Instead Palin (with a little help from her ghost writer) tells her story in plain, faintly colloquial language in a rather obvious attempt to set the record straight, as she sees it. Like Sarah Palin or not, it must be recognized that she was targeted in the press during the 2008 elections. Going Rogue is an attempt to redress those legitimate grievances.
Half the book deals with her life prior to John McCain’s surprise selection of her as his VP nominee and it’s an interesting tale of a hard-working woman who worked hard, served her family and her constituents, and achieved success after success on the local and state levels. There’s no question that Alaskans were better off with Palin as governor than with her predecessors.
Democrats’ attempts to dig up dirt on Palin have all but failed and her book, if it’s to be believed, makes it clear that no such attempts will succeed in the future. Sadly Going Rogue was released a year too late for the American people to use it as a decision-making tool in the 2008 elections. Would it have made a difference? I doubt it. The book is short on details – Palin doesn’t always name names, a fact that shortchanges the reader’s interest in exposing corruption in Alaskan politics – and her message, that of personal responsibility and limited government, while well articulated in places, falters during her account of the McCain campaign.
The second half of the book deals with those 10 weeks during which Sarah Palin injected an adrenaline shot into a veritable corpse of a campaign, energizing disheartened Republicans and scaring the radical left so badly that their wrathful, hateful response was inevitable and vicious.
This section of the book, as has been mentioned by other reviewers, is what gives me pause about a future Palin presidency. As the VP nominee she should have been sufficiently courageous to tell McCain staffers who were muddying her message and hobbling her efforts to drag the dead horse of their campaign uphill to get the hell out of the way. Instead, and in her own words, Palin was stymied by the bureaucracy and infighting of McCain’s advisers to the point that she was largely ineffectual after her initial boost to his campaign.
If she couldn’t put these hired flunkies in their place or truly do what some have accused her of – go rogue – what confidence is that supposed to inspire in me as a voter that she’ll be able to do better with more responsibility and a more contentious set of opponents/enemies?
As a leader there has to come a point when you recognize that your side’s efforts are failing and something more, a political Hail Mary, if you will, is needed. Palin’s selection was one such miracle for John McCain, but he needed another, a true maverick that wouldn’t allow his spin-masters to squander what little chance Republicans had to win the election. Obviously that did not happen and some of the blame must go to Sarah Palin for allowing McCain’s people to stifle her.
Bottom line? Going Rogue tells us who Sarah Palin is, a good person, a patriotic American, and a loyal public servant. It also tells us that in 2008 she wasn’t presidential material. In fairness, she wasn’t running for president, any more than Joe Biden was. But she was judged by that standard and found wanting.
Did Katie Couric do a hatchet job on her as Sarah Palin claims? Others in the press certainly did. But it’s the Couric interview that stopped the McCain machine dead in its tracks. Personally I believe that Palin botched that interview by attempting to be overly deferential to the McCain campaign HQ. Not able to answer freely, she bumbled and fumbled and all but blew the Republicans’ long shot at winning. Perhaps if she’d simply had the fortitude to stand up for her own beliefs and answer directly, the outcome would have been different.
That’s the lesson I think Sarah Palin needs to learn – to truly be herself, regardless of the consequences. After all, what was the worst that McCain could do? Drop her from the ticket? No. Banish her to the political equivalent of Outer Mongolia if he won? Hah! She was running for VP – she would have been halfway there anyway.
My final conclusion is that we’ve heard and read almost everything in Going Rogue before. Only the perspective is different here and it rings true for the most part (Palin’s take on the Couric interview being the only dissonance), even when the truth that’s revealed is that she needs to get stronger if she’s going to be president someday.